In my first years out of college, I worked at a newspaper and was anxious to be assigned anything that had any merit, anything besides the usual car break-ins my editor felt I needed to cover hourly. I had stories to share, I had things to unearth. I had research and gems I wanted to share!
The stories that gave me some type of hope were any that involved the welfare of children in the system. I was shocked at what I found as an outsider looking in, when before I had a bird’s-eye view as a foster child in the system. I watched my mother have more rights than myself through years of court battles.
To see a woman who looked like me, whose first name I share, who allowed me to rot in a dark basement, with no food, sun, who perpetrated and allowed others to perpetrate a violence and neglect against me that was inhumane, play the system like a fiddle! And me also! To me, I felt that learning everything about the system as a reporter, would bring me closure. It did not, but it helped me keep an emotional distance from those experiences.
I find now that in unearthing stories of friends who experienced this early on, who overcome it, who go on to live a life that is full of love, empathy, success and maturity..that we share a bond that outlives those trauma bonds.
Trauma bonding is a term many do not understand. Bonding with the perpetrator of violence or neglect against you is common for children who are abused by parents. Abusers feed into this, by luring children back into a relationship, or a trusting situation only to continue to re-abuse. It is these highs and lows, the promises and pain that keeps young children attached to abusers. It makes trust a very windy road into adulthood.
Life becomes a long line of questions for children in care. There is a loss of identity, there is a severe feeling of rejection from those who brought you into the world. It brings a longing for bonds that can replace lost family. And those are the good stories.
For foster children who suffered physical and sexual abuse, foster care can be an alarming test of trust and fear. It is like waking up on one bad carnival ride after another. And the rides are long. Even looking in the mirror can be startling. You never know who or what you resemble, and if you do, often times it is the face of your own abuser. Yes, the challenges that are overcome are life long. And maybe, for some foster children who are abused again in the system, becoming an adult is freedom from the confusion. For others, foster care is a life saver..and catches them at their weakest..building them up into adults that are even stronger and more resilient than they imagine!
I saw it all, had a foster sister who was murdered by her mother. I saw siblings go in and out of jail. Rode the ride of trying to find answers, that was scarier than the earlier scenario! But I kept focused on myself, my education, my inner peace that I rely on still when things seem out of focus.
For me, educating myself about the system was paramount to finding a way to silence the past. I would not say it was a forgiveness, but I had to put the emotion of my experience to rest so I could live my life. It was not until I became a mother, until I found a safe home within myself that I broke free of those bonds. While I rose above, or like to think I rose above this beginning there is still something missing I cannot quite name.
It is not pain, or anger, I do not feel like a victim at all, I do not live like a victim, I am smart, capable, I’ve had love, I’ve had loss, Ive fared pretty well. But still, something is missing. Sometimes it feels like an emptiness that visits at 2 am. Sometimes it is the sharp pain of losing someone. Sometimes it is when I look at my daughter and search her face for clues of myself as a girl her age. ( She is far more beautiful!)
In my publishing, I have found friends with similar experiences. Friends who wear that same cloak into adulthood. The ones who you don’t have to explain much to..and I am so grateful that my experiences led me to them. They have a similar discord. And in finding those similarities, it helps rebuild a past that is still missing. I am grateful for the people in my life, some new, that fill in the missing parts.
And I hope in my work, and sometimes even just this little blog that I make a connection with someone who needs the motivation to live the life they deserve, with passion and without fear.
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